Examination: The Destruction of Education

Too much focus on exams is damaging pupils’ mental health and self-esteem in England’s schools”, a report by BBC news says. The report continues to say that “drilling for tests has narrowed what children are learning” and “pupils’ emotional health and well-being is suffering” leading to a “complete meltdown.” “Both pupils and teachers are under a lot of pressure to achieve results in a pressure cooker, exam factory environment.

The children feel “completely defined by their grades and that is very detrimental to their wellbeing and self-esteem.” A topic will be skipped from the course despite being interesting if students will not be tested on it. Schools are becoming ‘exam factories’ and depriving children of their experience of education.

This article by BBC News is an eye-opener. Children as young as 3 are not promoted to the next grade because they did not learn the topics they were supposed to learn. Or they were good at all subjects except one, because of which they have to repeat the entire year. The current schooling system has created a mold and expects all children to fit in it; when we know children learn at their own pace and at their own time. Pushing them to learn and focus make them dislike education and learning itself.

Seeing an F or red blotched tests makes a child feel like a failure; that they cannot learn, that they are not good enough. Everyone in their circle knows. All those important to them know; their friends, their teachers, their parents, their siblings and their family. They understand the conversation in hushed voices is about them. They know they are under scrutiny and everyone is trying to figure out why they failed. That is a blow to their self-esteem! They feel what they excelled at does not matter, what matters is that they failed. The few things that they don’t know overshadow all that they do know. Moreover, a child will then try to do it the wrong way, by cheating or using quick fixes like rote learning to pass, to save himself the humiliation of being a failure. The focus on learning is gone. The purpose of education is lost.

Now let’s look at how the real world works. Yes, the degree and your test scores do matter, but skills, creativity and ideas are counted at your workplace, not the number of degrees you hold. Yes, a degree can get you a position, but if you have not learnt to be creative, no number of degrees can help you.

In the corporate world, you are assessed yearly, not on a monthly basis. And the assessment is based on performance throughout the year, not on a project that’s recently done. If we are not strict in assessing adults, why are we putting our children through rigorous, useless practice of rote-learning and the pressure of examination?

Some children are unable to pen down their thoughts and are better with speaking. Yes, the teacher will work on helping them learn and polish these skills, but it’s a process. Under the

pressure of examinations, a child will be unable to express the way he does in a relaxed way even if he wants to because there is so much pressure and the back-to-back examination schedule is mentally exhausting. Students get burnt out.

Furthermore, writing will be obsolete in the future, and just like emails and mobile technology have replaced handwriting, the children will need to learn to type faster, rather than write faster. The teachers are better able to gauge how much a student has learnt in class, through interaction, class work, activity and their participation in class. The understanding of concepts is more important than the student being able to write pages about a topic.

Our faith tells us that children are Ghair-Mukallif till 7 years of age, that is they are not held accountable for their actions by Allah (SWT). They are to be told to start praying after 7 and even then, it cannot be enforced by age 10. If Allah (SWT) is not judging them, and is giving children the time to grow, learn and explore, do we think we are wiser if we are training and enforcing things before the age Allah (SWT) and His Prophet has prescribed? That is something to think about! 

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